Nisyros is one of the most beautiful Aegean islands, still untouched by the tourism growth. It is part of the Dodecanese group of islands, situated between Kos and Tilos. The island extends over a surface of 41 km and its coastline is 28 km long. It can be reached by ferry from Piraeus, Kos and Rhodes.
According to mythology, it was created during the war between Gods and Giants. Poseidon chased the Giant Polyvotis down to Kos, cut a part of it and threw it to his enemy, sinking him forever in the bottom of the Aegean Sea. The legendary rock is the modern Nisyros and it is said that the volcano’s explosions are the angry breathing of the defeated Giant. These explosions shaped the island, which is considered to be the youngest volcanic centre in Greece, still active – along with the volcanoes of Milos, Santorini and Methana. During antiquity the island thrived on obsidian commerce, extracted by the inhabitants of Nisyros, from the nearby island, Gyali.
Around the island
MANDRAKI| Apart from being the capital of the island, Mandraki is also its harbour. It is one of the biggest villages on Nisyros with many available tourism facilities available. Enjoy a stroll around the exquisite pebbled narrow streets and squares (most typical of all being the plateia Delfinion [square of Dolphins]), and take a close look at the white or coloured two-storeyed houses with wooden balconies. The houses are made of volcano rocks and insulated with pumice-stone. The nightlife is not very intense but you will surely have a good time in Mandraki, where there are little tavernas and some bars.
EMPORIOS| Located 8 km E of Mandraki, Emporios stands out for its houses’ architecture. It flourished during the 20th century when it had many inhabitants, shops (blacksmith workshops, groceries, tailor-shops, coffee shops) and skilled stone makers. During the ‘60s a great part of the population moved to the village seaport, Palloi.
NIKIA| Porta is the main square of Nikia, where the church of Eisodion tis Theotokou [Presentation of Virgin Mary] is located; this is one of the most gorgeous churches of Greece! The square has an ellipsoid shape and pebbled floor designed by Paschalis Paschalakis, a famous artisan of the 19th century, born in Nisyros. Walking through the village, you will find some nice spots looking at the volcano. Nikia is located 14 km SE away from Mandraki.
Sights worth visiting:
• The volcano. You may walk in the crater and watch the boiling holes. The most recent explosion took place in 1888, shaping a cylindrical pipe of volcano elements, with a diameter of at least 25 m. Polyvotis, the largest crater of the volcano, has a diameter of 260m and a depth of 30m. There are five younger craters, in the same area, the largest being “Stefanos" with a diameter of 30 m and a depth of 30m. The volcano surrounds a valley (caldera) 2,400m long and 950m wide.
• Visit the volcanological museum in Nikia, at the edge of the caldera, offering a unique view. It is well-equipped with samples and pictures of rocks, maps, diagrams, photographs, models of volcanoes, computer simulations and much more. Thanks to the technology you will learn about the volcanic activity of the area through three dimensional moving images.
• Paleokastro, a classical period acropolis of the ancient city. It is still in very good condition because of its high quality construction and represents one of the best fortification works of the ancient times, basaltic andesite (volcanic rock), one of the hardest rocks in the world. The main gate is composed by well-hewn stone blocks with a perfect fit of the connecting surfaces. The total length of the fortification is very big, as it surrounds the entire land-lubber site of the rocky hill above the south end of Mandraki.
• The monastery of Panagia Spiliani, built at the top of a hill northwest of Mandraki. The biggest part of the monastery is built in a cave. The cave is divided into two churches. The north is dedicated to the Kimisi tis Theotokou (the Assumption) and the south, Agios Charalambos (Saint Charalambos).
• The Castle of the knights of St. John in Mandraki, built high on a rock at an altimeter of 150 meters. The castle is a reminder of the Knights of St. John having stepped foot on the island and built -in 1315- a magnificent castle in which nestles the Monastery of Panagia Spiliani dedicated to Kimisi of Theotokou (the Assumption).
• Panaghia Listiriotissa, located in a cave near the village.
• The medieval castle of Pantoniki which has a unique view. Taksiarches church (11th or 13th cent.) is built on the top of the castle with remarkable frescoes and icons to see.
• The monasteries of Panagia Kyra (7.5 km SE) and Stavros (8.5 km SW), on Argos location.
• Thermal Spas: Located at Loutra, the spring (37° C water temperature) is ideal for rheumatisms, arthritis, skin infections, sciatica and etc.
Where to Swim
There are beautiful and unique beaches on the island of Nisyros that will offer you different experiences. Try Lefki beach or Gialiskari, Lyés, Páloi, Pachia Ammos, Katsouni, Aghios Savas, Aghia Irini, and Chochlákia, with striking black pebbles, ideal for windsurfing and snorkeling lovers!
The surrounding islets have so much to offer that an excursion is an absolute must! Not to miss: a daily excursion to Gyali, where the beach, in the southern part of the islet has red, volcano rocks, whereas the other one, in the northern part, has white sand.
On Nisyros you will get to taste traditional dishes like pitia (chickpea nuggets),kapamas(stuffed goat) and of course fresh fish. Don’t miss mezithra cheese, adramithozoumo, capers, trigias cheese, boukounies (pork cooked with fat) giambrakia, marinated fish, beef in tomato sauce and pilaf. Do accompany your meal with a refreshing soumada (almond-based soft drink), kanelada (cinnamon-based soft drink) or koukouzina (high alcoholic drink).
Events – Nisyros
The fest of Koimisi tis Theotokou at Panagia Sipliani lasts for 9 days ( August 6-15). During the festivities and on the day of Panagia (August 15th) a procession and a big fair take place at Mandraki. In the evening there is a fair, called "Koupa tis Panaghias" [Virgin Mary's cup]: The first lady of the dance holds a cup in her hand and each one entering the dance puts money in the cup for the church and the island’s sake.